10.12.16

Software Patents Are Going Away and Their Proponents Fight Back Harder Than Before

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 2:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s hard to say goodbye

A conductorSummary: An overview of some of the latest press coverage regarding software patents now that they are difficult to acquire and especially difficult to assert in a court (the higher up, the harder)

SOFTWARE patents are a scourge and a plague. They harm developers all around the world, even those not residing in the US. These patents often boil down to nonsense that’s neither innovative nor novel.

“Like most software patents, here we have a non-inventive step; there’s nothing new about a rating system but because it’s done “on a computer” and “over the Internet” or regarding a vehicle we’re supposed to think it’s innovative and deserving a patent monopoly.”The other day Benjamin Henrion joked, “what an invention!”

He was referring to this blurb that says “Uber files patent application on rating your “ride” https://t.co/HcaLtCUGtJ details seem trite; inventor Ben Kolin https://t.co/gXPvZSAy44″ (direct link).

Like most software patents, here we have a non-inventive step; there’s nothing new about a rating system but because it’s done “on a computer” and “over the Internet” or regarding a vehicle we’re supposed to think it’s innovative and deserving a patent monopoly. What a hard argument to sell…

Another new example of this Uber ‘innovation’ says that: “In big cities, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who never used #Uber. Take a look at their #patent history” (this links to an article by Audrey Ogurchak at Watchtroll’s site).

Putting aside how unethical Uber is (Richard Stallman has a dedicated page about the subject), these software patents from Uber remind us that they are a real problem and several recent tweets or articles spoke about the threat Alice (and invalidations of patents on software) pose to Uber’s market value. As if Uber’s monopolistic practices are something that needs to be guarded…

“It’s sad to see that IBM continues to align with the dark side when it comes to patents whilst actively suing companies using software patents.”With this cautionary tale out of the way, let’s look at some of the encouraging coverage we saw in these past few days (half a week) following the famous ruling against software patents — a ruling that we wrote four articles about (so far). Here is a new article titled “Patents a “terrible fit” for software”. It says: “Copyright is a sufficient system for protecting software and the patent system is a “terrible fit”, a US Federal Circuit judge has said. The comments followed a ruling in the Intellectual Ventures v Symantec patent infringement case”

A lawyers’ Web site too admitted the undeniable; “Software Patents on Shaky Ground With Federal Circuit in Case After Case” said the headline, but the article is behind a paywall. Scott Graham, of Law.com, wrote: “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit put on what could have been a clinic last week on software patent eligibility.”

Above the Law, another Web site which targets lawyers, published this:

Prominent Pro-Patent Judge Issues Opinion Declaring All Software Patents Bad

Well here’s an unexpected surprise. A lawsuit brought by the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, and handled on appeal (as are all patent cases), by the notoriously awful Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) may have actually killed off software patents. Really. Notably, the Supreme Court deserves a big assist here, for a series of rulings on patent-eligible subject matter, culminating in the Alice ruling. At the time, we noted that you could read the ruling to kill off software patents, even as the Supreme Court insisted that it did not. In short, the Supreme Court said that any patent that “does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions” is not patent eligible. But then it insisted that there was plenty of software that this wouldn’t apply to. But it’s actually pretty difficult to think of any examples — which is why we were pretty sure at the time that Alice should represent the end for software patents, but bemoaned the Supreme Court not directly saying so, noting it would lead to lots of litigation. Still, the impact has been pretty widespread, with the Alice ruling being used both by the courts and the US Patent Office to reject lots and lots of software and business method patent claims.

More invalidations of software patents are being reported (coming out from CAFC), but don’t expect lawyers-led or lawyers-fed media to speak about these. One patent attorney wrote: “Fed Circuit Affirms 101 Ineligibility of a Patent Claiming Detection of Unauthorized Access to Medical Information: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/15-1985.Opinion.10-6-2016.1.PDF …”

This decision is only days old and we have not seen it mentioned much.

IBM’s software patents lobbyist in chief, Manny Schecter, is obviously upset. He wrote “No US statute renders software ineligible for patenting,” to which Henrion responded with “Free speech is enough to liberate IBM’s programmers.”

It’s sad to see that IBM continues to align with the dark side when it comes to patents whilst actively suing companies using software patents.

“If one is still in denial about the need for patent reform, then one is delusional or too obsessed with one’s legal invoicing/fees (profits).”LWN, a Linux news site, recognises that we’re moving towards the end of software patents, but a lot in the side of the lawyers (the very vocal minority) are still in denial or in “attack mode”. They are attacking the messenger or the credibility of the judgment in an elaborate attempt to defend software patents. Here we have proponents of software patents at Bilski Blog (cross-posted here) espousing political views to discredit the reform attempts. This was liked by proponents of software patents, as one might expect. To quote the concluding bits: “One of the most common concerns about our government—voiced from all parts of the political spectrum—is that Congress gets too little done. Thus, the worry that a Congressional “fix” to our patent system is not likely anytime soon is understandable. However, problems caused by any real or perceived Congressional dysfunction may be dwarfed by allowing courts to re-write the Patent Act. If there is ever an area where the balancing of interests calls for the legislative process to be involved, it is in our intellectual property system. One person’s view—or even one Court’s view—of a good solution, however well-intentioned, is not the right approach.”

If one is still in denial about the need for patent reform, then one is delusional or too obsessed with one’s legal invoicing/fees (profits). It’s not hard to see what motivates the above.

One can tell that things have become pretty bed for this camp when Martin Goetz is again writing in support of software patents, and moreover chooses Watchtroll as his platform, again. Some background of both Watchtroll and Goetz would help one understand the significance of this. As we are going to show in our next post, some other familiar faces are coming out of the woodwork right now, trying hard to stop patent reform if not a comprehensive overhaul.

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